Monday, July 31, 2006

Reflections on Fellowship, Answered Prayers, and Blogging

My three best friends moved out of state between 1999 and 2000, when I was in the midst of high school. My family changed churches a few times between middle school and high school. All of a sudden I found myself without many close friends nearby. Throughout the remainder of my high school years, on into my college time, my continual prayer request was that God would grant me like-minded friends. I searched for ways to meet others through e-mail or forums, to no avail. I see now God's wisdom in witholding me from my heart's desire, as my idea of like-minded friends was very narrow and exclusive at the time. I had to first learn to love and appreciate my fellow Christians, even if they didn't have exactly the same standards as myself.

Towards the end of college I discovered a home school forum (Generation Joshua) and a Biblical Womanhood Forum, both of which I participated on to some extent for a number of months. I did meet two good penpals through the latter forum, but I also knew it was time to move on from both of those forums. Last spring I discovered blogging (beginning my own blog in the fall) and Homeschool Alumni.

All of a sudden God abundantly answered my prayers for more friends. I eventually withdrew from the HA forums, as they were too time-consuming, but I still have kept in contact with some of my HA friends, and I have several penpals that I write. Blogging has opened up an even bigger door to meet like-minded people, and I have been so blessed with the people God has sent my way. I have yet to meet in person anyone that I've met online, but I hope to someday! My blogging friends, especially, have challenged my viewpoints and encouraged me in my daily Christian walk.

I've met many people online, not just those that are cookie cutters of myself, who have been a blessing to me. And along the way God has been bringing people into my "real life" who have also been an answer to my prayers for fellowship. God doesn't always answer prayers exactly when or how I ask them, but He does answer them! . . often far better than I could ever dream. I asked Him for a different church, and instead He gave me a love for the church of which I am a part. I asked Him for cookie cutter replicas of myself nearby, and instead He gave me Christian friends that don't necessarily have the exact same ideals, but who are, nevertheless, a wonderful blessing in fellowship! I asked Him for children of my own, and for now He has given me a whole nursery of children to cradle. I asked Him for a few penpals, and I have an overabundance of them!

Isn't it easy to abuse the blessings of God, though? Sometimes blogging distracts me from cherishing the little things of everyday life. It is easy to get caught up in writing my next post, and since I'm a perfectionist, that can be a time-consuming process. It's hard not to be consumed in reading each additional post of my blog friends, and making sure to leave a meaningful comment. Meaningful blogging conversations are wonderful! But they shouldn't become my life, and often blogging time is also used up doing unmeaningful things, like struggling to upload pictures or reading through miscellaneous posts.

I appreciated Sherrin's recent reflections on the benefits of blogging, and I whole-heartedly agreed with her. Jessica's quotes on silence were equally good, and a good reminder in light of blogging. Sometimes blogging is taken up with prattle, at the expense of other pursuits. I am the first person to encourage enjoying life and living it joyfully, and I love to post rambles on occasion. But that shouldn't consume my blog life! This summer I haven't been spending as much time on blogger as before, due largely to my constantly-changing schedule the past few months, but it still has consumed much more of my time than it should.

I'm not withdrawing from blogging. I feel clear that God is not desiring this of me at this time; in fact, when I've considered completely withdrawing, I have not felt a peace about it. But I also realize that blogging has to take a backseat at times. I also realize that blogging will probably not be a permanent part of my life. I cannot imagine managing to continue blogging after I am married with children, should this be in my future. I admire the mothers who balance blogging, but I don't think I would be able to keep things in balance as well as they do. Just as motherhood is a season, I have a feeling that blogging is also a season in my life. I don't know when this season will end, but I am enjoying it while it is still upon me, and praying that God will grant me moderation in this area.

With several new responsibilities this fall, blogging will have to take an even farther backseat. I may have to cut down on the number of blogs I read, and there may be longer periods when I don't post. But I'll still be here :), until I sense that this season of blogging has passed. For now, I have a number of other things I hope to accomplish today, and the rest of this week is much the same. With a trip to Kentucky next week and school beginning the following week, I have a number of projects I want to finish before the summer is out. I have people to meet and things to do, in addition to and often more important than my online time. But I'll still see you around, and cherish my time with my blogging friends. And I hope to get a few of my many, many drafts completed in the next week. We shall see.

I'm Back. . . and Blogger is Still Frustrating

I'm back after a busy weekend, and Ashley and Paul are married! The ceremony was absolutely beautiful, such that if I was to get married tomorrow and did not have time to plan my own ceremony, I would happily copy and paste Ashley's and Paul's ceremony. It was that beautiful! The bridesmaid march was Anne's Theme, per my suggestion :). For years I have thought that Anne's Theme (from Anne of Green Gables) would be perfect for a bridesmaid march, so I was glad to see my dream finally become a reality. I loved the hymns that were sung by the congregation and the beautiful organ and piano preludes of sacred music.

I'm not going to post any pictures from the actual ceremony or the main reception, as I forgot to ask Ashley if that was all right, and I certainly don't want to preempt her own posts on pictures! I'm sure she won't mind if I post some pictures from food preparations, though. The problem is that Blogger is still not cooperating with me on this whole picture-posting effort! I have food preparation pictures I want to post, pictures of my room to post, and pictures from a quesadilla-making experiment, but I can't get Blogger to let me post pictures. It is so frustrating! I refuse to waste hours and hours just trying to post pictures, though, so I will try again later.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I always knew Paul was reformed. . .

I was reading through I Timothy today, and this passage caught my eye:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

~~I Timothy 4:1-5~~

I do realize that technically my title is not very clear, theologically. Since Paul is speaking the inspired words of God in this instance, this is not just "Paul's viewpoint.". . but it made for a catchier title :).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Blogger has been more of a stress than a help these past few days. I have lost a few drafts, and even when I back them up, sometimes I am not able to copy/paste them back into a draft. Pictures aren't downloading properly, and I am just tired of it :(. And my computer is being slow on top of everything.

I have a lot to do anyway this week, and blogging is not high on my list of priorities, so I'm going to take a break from the blogosphere until Monday, when I hope to return rested, refreshed, and with a more cooperative blogging service and computer. I can dream, can't I? Oh, and hopefully I'll have reports of a wedding reception successfully catered :).


Monday, July 24, 2006

Susan, the technology expert, makes some recommendations


Jessie asked me about blog tracking, so I thought I'd post a bit on it here.

I first started using blog tracking software back in March, after Adrian posted a bit about Jetbrains Omea Reader. I had never heard of it before, but I decided to try using it because checking blogs individually was quite overwhelming! I really liked Omea Reader because it had a flagging system that allowed me to rate posts by importance, and it was easy to delete uninteresting posts so I didn't have to sift through them again. One click of the button and all my blogs were checked at once. Omea Reader is a desktop tracker that is downloaded to a computer, so it is not web-based. This is a disadvantage, as I found, is if you frequent a variety of computers, rather than just one.

A few months ago our computer went on the fritz, and after it was rebooted and everything was reinstalled, for some reason Omea Reader would not work on my computer after I reinstalled it. So I turned to a web-based service instead, which has the advantage of access on any internet-connected computer. I initially was planning on using Bloglines, but before I got very far in setting that up, Ashley convinced me to try Google Reader, which I really like. The deciding factor for me between Google Reader and Bloglines was that Google Reader tracks xanga accounts, unlike Omea Reader and Bloglines. I'm not a big fan of xanga (don't get me started. . . ), but there are a few intelligent xanga users out there, including Brother Dear and Becky, so tracking xangas is very helpful!

The catch to Google Reader is that I'm pretty sure you need a Google e-mail account (g-mail), but then, everyone should already have a g-mail account since it is such a wonderful service. If you want to sign up for g-mail, write me at susan [dot] garrison [at] gmail [dot] com, and I'll send you an invitation.

The benefit of any of the above services I mentioned is that they're all free, so take advantage of them and save some time!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Why Genesis Matters

Today in Sunday School the teacher noted as an aside that the doctrine of creation is under attack in our culture today because it is closely tied to another doctrine - the doctrine of the final judgment. Think about that. If we can manage to escape having a Creator, then we've managed to escape having a final judgment by that creator. In other words, if there is no creator than we have no higher set of morals to which we must subscribe. The study of our origins is not just about where we came from; it's also about where we are going.

But recognizing that we have a Creator is not enough, though it is a start! Even the demons believe in God and tremble (James 2:19). Attempting to follow the laws set forth by our Creator is not enough either. The Pharisees tried that, yet Jesus condemned them. There is another piece of the Genesis puzzle that is missing. Not only must we recognize that we have a Creator and a Law-giver, we must also recognize that we need our Creator and Law-giver to also be our Saviour.

We cannot properly recognize that we need a Saviour without going back to Genesis, for it is in the first chapters of Genesis that we first see a paradise, and man communing with God; and then we witness the fall and corruption. In the fall we learn that we have offended our Creator; we learn that obeying laws is not enough, for we are corrupt to our very core and cannot keep the law. Instead we need someone to save us from the bonds of the law, for only after this are we truly free to follow it, as we are made new creatures in Christ. It is only when we realize that man is not basically good, but utterly sinful, that we are willing to admit that we need a Saviour. That is the message of the first chapters of Genesis; that is why Genesis matters.

There are two ways to deal with our fears about the final judgment. One, as my teacher mentioned today, is to ignore our Creator and deny His existence, for with no Creator, there is no final judgment; this is only a temporary fix, for ignoring our Creator does not mean He ceases to exist. The other way is to recognize that we have a Creator, recognize that He is our Law-Giver, and recognize that we are incapable of keeping His laws until they are written on our hearts as He makes us new creatures. Then, and only then, will our fears of the final judgment be finally and justifiably laid to rest, for if we trust in Christ we will not have to face the Judge of the earth, for Christ will face Him for us!

Yea, it is necessary to know the first Adam, that we may know the second (Rom. v. 12); to believe the fall, and original sin, that we may be stirred up to fly to Christ by faith for holiness by free gift, knowing that we cannot attain it by our own power and free-will (2 Cor. i. 9; Matt. ix. 12, 13; Rom. vii. 24, 25; 2 Cor. iii. 5; Eph. v. 14). There were no need of a new man, or a new creation, if the old were not without strength and life (John iii. 5, 6; Eph. ii. 8).
- Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. Direction XIV.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Signature Lines

Has anyone else ever noticed that the signature line on a check isn't really a line? And no, this is not a mathematical technicality, for all of you who just groaned and thought, Here she goes again with her weird geometrical musings.

No, what I mean is that it's not a line because it's actually very finely printed words. Seriously. Take a look :). I first noticed this several years ago, and it's amusing to watch people try to read the print. I'm curious if any of you can read the words without a magnifying glass or other aid. I can, thanks to the amazing number of carrots I've eaten in the course of my 22 years here on earth :).

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World

I think most little girls grow up dreaming of being mommies someday. I remember an aching longing to be a mother, even from a very, very young age. I would cradle and care for my baby dolls, but it wasn't the same as having my real, live, own baby. Of course, I now laugh at the idea of a preschooler wanting to take on the cares of motherhood :). The mothering instinct is so ingrained in women, though! Have you ever watched a little two year old girl walk into a room in which there is a baby? She goes straight for him, and begins cooing at him and stroking him. A young boy may do the same, but from my own observations, not nearly as frequently (my point is not that men are insensitive). Little girls just love to nurture, and God made us that way.

One of my favorite passages from Les Miserables describes Cosette as she wistfully observes the activities of a young family and dreams of her love, Marius:

The mother was there, opening her wings like a fan over her brood; the father flew about, went away, then returned, bringing food and kisses in his break. The rising day gilded this happy thing, the great law Multiply was there, smiling and august, and this sweet mystery was blossoming in the glory of the morning. Cosette, her hair in the sunshine, her soul in fantasy, made luminous by inner love and the outer dawn, leaned out unconsciously, and, almost without daring to acknowledge to herself that she was thinking of Marius at the same time, began to look at these birds, this family, this male and this female, this mother and these little ones, withthe deep restlessness which a nest gives to a young girl.
I love the way Victor Hugo speaks of the "great law Multiply." What an interesting way to describe that longing, that nurturing instinct, that desire to procreate and mother!

The church we attended when I was younger used to have a fall festival every year, and one year (I was about 5 or 6?) the costume theme was "what you want to be when you grow up." The other girls there had an assortment of costumes; my memory fails me with details, but I'm sure there were ballerinas, teachers, scientists, actresses, princesses, etc. present. I do remember that my sister was a nurse, and a very cute one, I might add :). I dressed as an expectant mother. My mom let me wear one of her shirts for "growth" ;), and she used a marker to draw an arrow and the word "baby" down to my protruding belly.

To me, the costume choice was obvious. I remember when my mom was discussing costumes with Boy, Sister Dear, and me, I had no problem sorting through my dreams of "what I wanted to be." Most little girls go through various phases of wanting to be an astronaut, a teacher, or a librarian, in addition to being a mother, but fom my earliest memories, becoming a mother was my strongest yearning. At times through the years, I've also considered teaching piano lessons or being a seamstress (or becoming a math teacher. . . ), but those were always in addition to and second to my desire to be a mother, so my costume so long ago was quite appropriate.

In college, being an education major resulted in being asked on numerous occasions, "How long have you wanted to be a teacher?" :-) Well, actually, I really want to be a mother. A homeschool mother. Teaching is sort of an "interim occupation." Hehe.

Then I had the well-meaning mathematics professors who tried to convince me to switch from a math education major to a strictly mathematics major. Now, I'm not denying that the mathematics courses were far more interesting and stimulating than my education courses! But I didn't want a second degree or an eventual professorship, like they were suggesting. I wanted a little home, a Godly man to love, and a brood of children to nurture. My most emphatic mathematics professor persisted in trying to convince me to switch my degree to math and go on for a graduate degree in mathematics. When I told her that my plan was not to use my degree long-term, she looked a bit discouraged, and pleaded with me that "we need women in higher mathematics." This statement sort of perplexed me. Women are not specially suited for higher mathematics, though many are gifted in this area, myself included, so the need seemed contrived to me. But women are specially suited for another vocation: motherhood. As my professor told me of the great "need" for women in higher mathematics, I could not help but think, but we need mothers far more!

I was reminded of this conversation recently when reading this article, on the importance of motherhood. Here are a few snippets:

There is no compelling case that the world would be a better place if more women were lawyers, bankers, soldiers or engineers. There are many such arguments, however, that the world would be a far better place if more women were mothers. Which means more than the mere act of procreation. It means devotion, sacrifice and time. Not quality time, just time. Lots of it. It means refusing to accept that self-esteem can only come through a boss, water cooler gossip and a generous pension scheme.

Recently, a Tory MP told me, in a spasm of political correctness, that Canada needed more women in Parliament. I asked him why, and he reacted as if he'd never been asked the question before. Which, of course, he probably hadn't.

I continued: "Could it be argued that raising a child to be a respectful, intelligent, moral and good person is just slightly more important than sitting in a building in Ottawa and obeying the orders of some second-rate prime ministerial assistant?"
Make sure to read the whole article (Hattip: LAF)

Will God ever grant my prayers for a husband and children? Maybe, maybe not. But that doesn't mean my hands need be idle now, lamenting my empty arms. I can cradle another mother's sweet infant and whisper a prayer of thanks for another gift of life, another child to be raised for Him.

I can also be thankful for the women in my family who sacrificed to raise up their children, who would in turn raise up children, who would raise up children, who would raise up children. . . eventually raising up me! I can be thankful for my own mother, who may not have ministered to the whole world when I was younger, but certainly defined the whole world for her three children. Some women choose to relinquish a powerful position of CEO, congressman, principal, or lawyer to become a mother, but they take on a far more powerful position. For the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who has filled out my reader survey so far! I've enjoyed reading through the responses, and please do continue to comment to the survey if you haven't done so already.

I thought it would be easier to write a follow-up post than comment back to everyone :).

Hannah and Jessie win the prize for branching out the most on the "anything else of interest" portion, especially Hannah, which is no surprise. *ahem* She scares me everytime she starts talking about her plans for hypothetical nieces and nephews. . .

I thought the variety of "favorite post" choices was interesting, and I'm so glad that my poetry is loved and appreciated, even recited to this day! It makes me feel famous :).

I'm filing away all of the suggestions for future posts - great ideas, so thank you! Jessica's suggestion was my favorite, but I'm not sure I'm qualified to write a convincing post touting the amazing superiority of dark chocolate to milk chocolate. I'll have to think on that one, but 'tis a noble, important topic, to be sure. Regarding Ashley's request, maybe instead of writing a post on the proper order of Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, we should instead open the floor for debate in a thread in the near future :-D. As for John's suggestion, I actually already have a post on Fibonacci long overdue, and I apologize to all my Readers Dear who remember my promises last fall that have not yet been fulfilled. I haven't been at all good at writing on math this summer, but I will try to do better, so don't despair! ;) I haven't been doing math a whole lot, so it hasn't been on my mind as much - shocking, I know!

Most everyone seems to have taken my breakfast and hat questions seriously, which made for amusing responses. I would like to thank Ash, Missy, Amy, the Happy Feminist, and Jessie (minus her comment on the black tie!) for the hat compliments :-D. The hat in the photo is my "sun hat," meaning I use it when I'm going to be in the sun for a while, which is not often. It is great for protection, and prevents sun-induced headaches. I don't normally wear hats with that wide of a brim. Most of my hats have a narrower brim. After various requests, I think I will take pictures of my room, which would show the variety of hats I have (most I've purchased for about $1/piece) and the pretty pictures on my wall. As a warning, some of you that are minimalists or interior decorators may cringe when you see how many things I've managed to pack into such a small room, but the important thing is that it's organized and stays so! Anyway, I'll try to post pictures soon :).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reader Survey

I'm a curious person by nature. I sometimes wonder just who reads my blog :). I know I have some lurkers who occasionally leap out of hiding, and then I also have regular readers who consistently comment. Some of you I know a lot about, some of you a little, and some of you practically nothing. If you are reading this (even if I know who you are), would you do me a favor and fill in the following?

Name: (if this makes you uncomfortable, do first name only, or just an alias)

Location: (this can be as specific as city or as broad as country/continent - a US state sure would be nice, though!)

Religious Beliefs: (and if you are a Christian, a denomination or general affiliation would be nice)

How You Got Here: (help me fill out my "blog family tree")

Your Favorite Post that I Wrote: (and why it is your favorite would be nice)

Topics You Would Like Me to Address in the Future: (no promises here, but we'll see. . . )

Anything Else of Interest: (age, occupation, marital status, you had bacon this morning for breakfast, you like my hat, etc.)

If you don't have a blogger account, you can use the anonymous comment option, which I have enabled on my blog. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Open Letter to Politicians

Dear Politicians,

If you want me to vote for you in the general election, please spend more time clarifying your own political record and platform than broadcasting the faults and doubtful past of your opponent. I appreciate disclosure; I don't condone mudslinging. . . especially when you will embrace your target immediately following today's primaries, and then join together to hunt a new prey. I smell duplicity.

A Disgusted Citizen Who Skipped the Primaries Today

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Good Quote on the Law

I'm currently reading The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, by Walter Marshall, and this particular quote jumped out at me in my reading the other day. I thought it was relevant, given my comment in the last post, concerning the Pharisees' use of the law, (taken from Direction XIII):

You must endeavour to know the commands of the law; not that you may be enabled, by that knowledge, to practise them immediately, and so to procure salvation by your works; but rather, by your knowledge of them, you may be made sensible of your inability to perform them, and the wrath that you are under for breaking them, and the impossibility of being saved by your own works; that so you may fly to Christ for refuge, and trust only to the free grace of God for justification, and strength to fulfil the law acceptably, through Christ.

While I'm on the subject of Walter Marshall's book, I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in justification or sanctification (and that should describe every Christian. . . ). It is the best book, bar none, I have read on the subject. In fact, it is quite possibly the best work of non-fiction I have read to date, excepting the Bible. The Puritans were master students of scripture, and Walter Marshall is no exception.

The Middle Way, Age Segregation, and A Bit of Irony

One notion I've been pondering a great deal over the past eight months or so is the notion of liberal v. conservative. For some reason I held the belief for years (whether or not I would admit it) that conservative = good, period. I was proud of the fact that I was conservative. My family attended a conservative church; we homeschooled and were part of a conservative homeschool group. We lived in a conservative county in the Bible belt, which is predominantly conservative. So we had a lot of company in our conservativism.

But one only has to give the gospels a cursory glance to realize that the group that most enraged Jesus was the conservatives. Really. Stop and think about that. Jesus was more merciful, more friendly with tax collectors and prostitutes, than he was to the morally upright rulers of the law. He was enraged with the Pharisees. He called the conservatives of his day a "brood of vipers." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. The conservatives of Jesus' day, like so many conservatives of our day, were too morally rich to truly understand their need of a Saviour. Usually the conservatives of today fail more in recognizing this for sanctification than justification, but we are guilty of both :(. The Pharisees distorted God's grace with their extreme legalism, and for that they were condemned. More conservative does certainly not equal more righteous!

A few weeks ago my pastor preached on the Rich Young Ruler from Mark. One thing that especially caught my attention in the sermon was the observation that the Rich Young Ruler's riches were a stumbling block in two ways. He did not only have a love of money, but a love of himself as well. He had moral wealth that blocked his recognition of a need for a Saviour. Someone who claims to have kept all the commandments from a boy is not going to see his need for a Saviour. His moral riches were a stumbling block to him.

The Rich Young Ruler and the Pharisees both completely missed the purpose of the law. The law is not soap to wash ourselves clean; it is a mirror to show us our sinfulness and to point us to Christ. Because the Pharisees were in a false sense of security over their standing before God, their hearts were hardened more than the worst of sinners. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

But back to Jesus' befriendment of the tax collectors and prostitutes. I am certainly not saying that by fraternizing with them Jesus was endorsing their sinfulness. Far from it. So many people remember Jesus' kindness to the condemned prostitute and His challenge to her accusers: let the one without sin cast the first stone. But too many forget His charge to the prostitute: go and sin no more. Jesus wasn't in the business of ignoring or redefining sin; that's the liberal response to sin. Sin is an affront to God and cannot go unpunished. To deny this is to deny the very essence of Christianity.

Jesus attacked both the liberals and conservatives of his day! Jesus was in the business of dealing with and forgiving sin. But only for those who were humble enough to realize that they needed a Saviour. So, though I would never describe myself (for fear of misunderstanding) as a moderate, perhaps that is more what I am seeking to be. I pray that God continues to deliver me from Pharaseeism, even as I pray that He will keep me from antinomianism. Truly, the middle way is best. Human nature is prone to extremes, but usually what God requires is balance. Let's look at an application:

A year ago I was stalwartly against any form of age segregation in church. I am still no fan of the vast bulk of age segregation in modern churches. But I now have no problem with Sunday Schools, if they are implemented to support parental training, rather than usurp it. I strongly believe that children belong in service with their parents. But I admit now that the place of infants (or very young children) in church is not so clear in my mind. I still want to have my (hypothetical future) children in worship with me from birth (or conception, rather), but even then I admit that I may change my mind, and ultimately it is up to my (hypothetical future) husband, not myself.

I realized gradually that, while I agreed with most of the motives behind the anti-age-segregated movement (family togetherness is important, e.g.), some of the principles were applied in an extra-Biblical way. Just because Sunday School is often abused in our culture, replacing the Father's responsibility to train his children, doesn't mean that all Sunday School programs should be automatically tossed away, especially at the risk of brotherly unity. Children do learn at different levels (though not as stringently as many would have us believe). And Christians are saved into a covenant community to aid them in training their children. Sunday Schools and similar programs don't have to preempt worship, though sadly they often do. One response is to say the issue of age-segregation does not matter at all, and another is to think that all age-segregation is wrong. Period. I've come to believe, as I've studied the scripture this past year and as God has been teaching me about Christian grace and charity, that the moderate view on this is best.

Now for the ironic part. I need to end this post so I can go make some calls to recruit volunteers for our church's nursery. I recently agreed to become the assistant nursery coordinator for my church. Given my rather strong views last year, that is extremely ironic. And who said God doesn't have a sense of humour?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Broken Mirror

Lydia has been requesting that Sister Dear submit more fantastic poetry for guest posts, but Hannah hasn't produced anything recently. Brother Dear posted an interesting (and more serious) piece of poetry on his Xanga today, though. And I didn't even know he ever wrote poetry.

The Balance Beam

The crowd waited in eager anticipation for the last gymnastic performance of the evening - a balance beam routine. There was an unexplained delay for the performance, and the crowd was growing impatient. I was a rookie reporter on the first row, sitting near the entrance from whence the gymnast would emerge. Another reporter leaned over to me to give me a bit of background on the girl, since we had some time to spare as we waited.

It seemed this girl, who had been named Thanatos (strange name, I know), had developed severe scoliosis from a young age, and though her parents had tried a number of new-fangled methods and old-wives remedies for straightening her spine, they couldn't fix it themselves. When the girl became older she also tried various methods, but to no avail. A family friend had continually entreated the family to consider professional care - surgery followed by chiropractic therapy - but the family had resisted, saying that the cure did not have to be that drastic. They especially resisted since a doctor told them that the chiropractic therapy would have to be lifelong, despite the surgery. . . and the family was taken aback that they were offered the surgery for free, paid by an anonymous donor. The girl would have to continue to attend sessions and do exercises at home on a daily basis, but it would all be paid for - by someone they did not know. This unsolicited charity greatly offended the family, who insisted they didn't need that sort of help. "It's just a minor curvature of the spine," they kept insisting.

The problem was, the parents had always dreamed of their daughter becoming a great gymnast, in the tradition of her older siblings. Thanatos was enrolled in gymnastics from a young age, and while she seemed to have a lot of determination and natural ability, her scoliosis wouldn't allow her to perform well. Her hip rose higher on the right side, so she tended to lean leftward. Her parents and she had found that the best way to prevent this problem in the short-run was for her to counter this by focusing on leaning to the right. They had devised all sorts of ways to encourage this, including painting rightward pointing arrows on her feet and hands, to remind her during her gymnastic routines, as well as designing her outfits to be of an asymmetrical fashion, more solid and embellished on the right. Her hairstyles were usually braided ponytails that were oriented on the right side of her head. Vain attempts to be sure, but they seemed to help a little. She continually became frustrated as her scoliosis became worse and worse, not better as she and her parents had hoped. Their various efforts were not helping much; if anything her condition was worsening.

Finally, when Thanatos was about 12, she came to her parents and frustratingly asked them if they could try surgery and, if necessary, life-long therapy. The parents were vehemently opposed to the idea, as they still considered it to be an unnecessarily drastic measure. "Thanatos," they protested, "You did fine last week in your performance. You only waivered a few times, and as long as you're careful to lean to the right, you'll balance out your left-ward tendency eventually." But Thanatos continued to struggle.

Thanatos persisted in bringing up the possibility of surgery to her parents for the next several months, stating her case: it's absolutely free, paid for by someone else; it's a permanent solution; my scoliosis is not getting better, only worse; and on and on. Finally after several months of her pleading and her continual struggling with her scoliosis, her parents agreed to allow her to have the surgery. They went back to the doctor who had first suggested it and who had contact with the anonymous donor. The parents were still embarassed at the notion of a stranger paying for the surgery, but they admittedly were lacking the funds, so for the sake of their daughter they accepted the offering. As the doctor and the family were finalizing details for surgery, the doctor said, "Oh, one thing I forgot to mention. The donor requires two things in exchange for his donation."

The parents and especially Thanatos were by now eager to try the surgery, and Thanatos had complete faith in its success, so they replied that they were willing to accept any conditions laid out by the donor. The doctor told them that first, Thanatos had to change her name to Zoe (the donor hated the name Thanatos, the doctor explained), and second, she must agree to lifelong therapy to treat her condition. The donor was also a spine doctor, it seemed, and knew that the surgery would be in vain were it not followed by continual therapy. The parents were rather irritated by the two requests: Change their daughter's name? Commit to lifelong therapy? They had been told about therapy before, but they wanted the option to discontinue it if they wanted. The conditions seemed a bit drastic, but Thanatos pleaded, and at last her parents agreed.

Thanatos (or Zoe, rather) had the surgery performed and it was a great success. Her spine was aligned and she had a perfectly symmetrical bone structure. She quickly rose to the top of her gymnastic peers in the region, especially in the balance beam. Ironic that a girl who was once so unbalanced now excelled in an event that required balance. It was now several years since her surgery, and Zoe continued, with the constant discipline of therapy, to have a straight spine. Zoe had focused so much on her gymnastics career in the years since her surgery that she at last took a hiatus from competition, a break of a few months that was ending that very night.

My fellow reporter ended his story just as the gymnastics performance prepared to resume, I shifted in my seat and prepared for the routine to begin. A young woman (presumably Zoe) entered the arena and walked confidently towards the balance beam. The emcee announced her name right as she passed him: "Zoe Delaney will now take the beam." The young woman stopped and leaned over to him, whispering something to him. "Excuse me, ladies and gentleman. I have a correction to make. Please welcome Zoe Thanatos Delaney." Well, that seemed a bit odd. But then, the more I watched Zoe walk, the more I noticed a few other things about her appearance that seemed a bit odd.

She was leaning a bit to the right, I noticed. If she was having a relapse with her scoliosis, wouldn't she be leaning to the left, I wondered? Her ponytail was fastened just above her right ear, which I consider to be a silly style anyway, but on a woman in her late teens? Her hair was extremely long and thick, and her ponytail had to cause some strain. What an odd hairstyle! Were those arrows drawn in bold marker on her wrists? And they were on her ankles as well. Why did her outfit have sequins covering the right side alone? No shoulder strap on the left, either. "Is this normal?" I whispered to the reporter next to me. He shook his head, obviously perplexed as well.

Zoe (or Zoe Thanatos?) was perfectly composed as she approached the beam - calm, cool, and collected - seemingly confident in her ability to perform flawlessly, and oblivious to (or ignoring) her asymmetrical appearance. Usually gymnasts exhibit at least a bit of nervousness, but she betrayed no doubt as to her ability to execute her routine. As she raised her arms and arched her back, in preparation to mount, she swayed a bit, no doubt caused by her hairstyle. I would never be able to stand straight with such a mass of hair hanging down one side of my head!

I watched her routine with part amazement, part amusement. It really was comical the way she struggled to maintain her balance with such a long, thick braid cascading down her right side. And she even seemed to be purposely leaning to the right at times. She did manage to stay on the beam for the whole performance, though, despite some jerky motion and swaying. It was remarkable that she didn't fall, and though she performed every move in her routine, it was obvious that she spent more time keeping upright than she did gracefully executing her performance. The crowd was actually cruel and laughed at times, but mostly just sat there looking confused. What had happened to Zoe during her hiatus? I heard another reporter behind me mutter to his neighbor that Zoe had done so well in the past several years, that she had decided to forego regular therapy for her scoliosis. "I can handle it from here," she was reported to have said. "I'll keep an eye out for any recurrence, and deal with it as it comes."

We all applauded as Zoe finished her routine, and as she walked out of the arena, a reporter nearby asked Zoe how she felt about her performance. "Great!" she replied. "I had a bit of trouble a few times when I felt myself leaning too hard to the left, but other than that I kept my balance and executed my moves. And I stayed on the beam. That's what is important." She noticed herself leaning to the left? I pondered. What about the right? I mused, as I watched her walk away, her head cocked a bit to her right, bearing the weight of her braid. As she walked away, I couldn't help but wonder at her self-assessment. Naive me had always thought that gymnastics was about the beauty of the routine, not just stumbling through moves and remaining on the beam.

As I left the arena, I passed an elderly man standing by himself on the sidelines. I'll never be sure, but I thought I heard him murmuring to himself, Don't you understand, Zoe? You have been set free? You are a new creature. He turned to go, but not before stooping to pick up a sequin that had dropped from Zoe's outfit. He lit a match and let the sequin melt away. This time as he whispered to himself, I heard him quite distinctly: For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. . .

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The "Other Side" of the Story

This summer my pastor's wife is leading a book study through Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss. We're meeting weekly to discuss the book, and I just sat down to read the chapters for tonight's meeting. If you haven't read Stepping Heavenward, may I highly recommend it? I first read it about 8 years ago, and I have since read it a number of additional times. It is written in the form of the journal of a woman, spanning her 16th birthday until her death, and it details her journey to godliness as she "steps heavenward." The author is also the writer of the hymn More Love to Thee, O Christ.

I loved this passage in today's reading, when Katy (the writer of the journal) recounts the differing views of herself and her sister-in-law (Martha), regarding the arrival of Katy's third child. As a bit of background, Katy has very delicate health and the family, while not starving, also is not rich:

I celebrated my little Una's third birthday by presenting her with a new brother. Both the children welcome him with delight that was of itself compensation enough for all it cost me to get up such a celebration. Martha takes a most prosaic view of this proceeding, in which she detects malice prepense on my part. She says I shall now have one mouth the more to fill and two feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting, reading, music, and drawing.

Well! This is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other. Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worthy all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ's name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other dearlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother's heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A few reasons I haven't been posting much in the past week. . .

We're starting preparations for Ashley's wedding reception on July 29th. We are catering it, and right now we are making shopping lists, schedules, and beginning to bake some food ahead of time. On this week's agenda is baking 600 little pigs-in-blankets.

I'm doing some sewing for Tabitha's Attic. I'm making doll-size quilt/pillow/sheet/mattress/dust ruffle sets to be sold at a sale next month. My goal is five sets, so I'm trying to get a good start on them. I'm using Butterick 4538, which is turning out very lovely, but the directions for the pattern layout (and the pattern pieces as well) are weird, so I wouldn't recommend the pattern!

My blog has been silent, but I've been participating in a few blogging discussions on other blogs, including the women-in-college thread on Lydia's blog. I finally figured out how to pronounce Sherrin's name over on an amusing discussion on her blog, and Jessica and I are discussing What's Wrong with the Gospel, Keith Green, Charles Finney, and missions over at her blog.

Okay, I better get back to sewing. I just wanted to pop into my blog for a moment so Ashley wouldn't comment soon with a plea for a post ;). I have a number of posts floating around in my head, but we shall see when they get written :). Hopefully soon.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

In the past few months my church has sung William Cowper's hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way a number of times during worship, and it has become more and more precious to me each time we sing it. It is such a beautiful hymn on the sovereignty of God. My church doesn't use the traditional melody for the hymn, but an alternative melody that, in my opinion, adds even more to the richness of the hymn. My favorite stanzas of the hymn are the fifth and sixth, particularly this line: the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower. What a beautiful promise for God's children! We are not promised a carefree life, but we are promised that all things work together for our good. That is the blessed hope we have!

On the subject of God's sovereignty, I encourage you to read Sherrin's post today on God's sovereignty in her life. Please take the time to read her testimony; you will be glad you did. Sherrin's trust in God's sovereignty and her thankfulness to Him for a life-changing event that would embitter many, is a beautiful lesson on trusting and thanking God in all circumstances.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Mixed Concerns over Population

CNN has an interesting article that contrasts the population growth of the United States with the population decline of many other countries, primarily European countries. Here are a few excerpts:

Countries have lost people because of wars, disease and natural disasters but never -- at least in modern history -- because women stopped having enough children, Butz said.

Japan announced that it is now the world's most elderly nation, with more than a fifth of its people 65 or older.

On average, women must have 2.1 children in their lifetimes for a society to replenish itself, accounting for infant mortality and other factors. Only one country in Europe -- Albania -- has a fertility rate above 2, according to statistics gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency. Russia's fertility rate is 1.28. In Japan, it's 1.25.

The United States has a fertility rate of 2.05, about enough to maintain a stable population. The U.S. also adds people through immigration, something many European countries have shunned.

About 40 percent of U.S. population growth comes from immigration, both legal and illegal, according to the Census Bureau. However, if the fertility rate remains unchanged, all of America's population increase will eventually come from immigration, Butz said.

Read the whole article here.

HT: Ashley

New Series on Lydia's Blog

Lydia Hayden is staring a new series on her blog, exploring the issue of women and college. I think it will be a very profitable look at the subject. I've thoroughly enjoyed Lydia's well-reasoned blog posts in the past, and I appreciate the way she approaches issues with charity, understanding, and Biblical principles. She asked me to write the first post for the series, and she posted it last night. Make sure to check it out, and keep coming back for additional posts from Lydia and hopefully others. I wrote my post from a personal perspective of public higher education and by no means covered everything pertaining to the issue, nor reached many firm conclusions on the matter, so I am really looking forward to reading additional posts on the subject.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Short Visit to the Land of Corn

My family enjoyed a short visit to our homestate Indiana over July 4th weekend. Friday morning we picked Brother Dear up from The Ghastly Airport (aka Hartsfield-Jackson), as if two visits to that place were not enough in one week! Thus commenced our 500 mile drive to Southern Indiana. Saturday we took a quick trip up to Indianapolis to see my dad's side of the family for lunch, but most of our time was spent with Mother Dear's family in Hanover and Madison, in the southern portion of the state.

Madison hosts a boat race called the Regatta every year, as it is situated on the Ohio River. (Watch Madison with Jim Caviezel and Jake Lloyd for a rather-lame account of the history of the Regatta in Madison.) Madison always has fireworks on the Saturday before the Regatta, instead of on July 4th, so we watched our fireworks early :). We had a great view of them, because they were shot off at the river and we had a perch on my aunt's deck, which overlooks the river from afar. The only other time I've seen fireworks explode at eye level was the July 4th we climbed Stone Mountain and watched the fireworks that were shot off from the base of the mountain. It really is the best way to watch fireworks - much better on the neck! But I wouldn't recommend the Stone Mountain Independence Day event (Ashley!), though that's another story for another day - just think "insanely crowded." Unfortunately the actual Regatta the next day was cancelled due to an accident :(, which was too bad because we had a great view of the event (for free!) from the deck. Ah well.

One evening after supper some of us sat out on my grandparents' deck and had a bit of a "singing" as it's called in the South ;). I wish singing (especially sacred singing) was a more popular pasttime in this day and age! It is so much fun. We sang a few songs we already knew, and my Aunt Mary taught us two new songs with rounds. Why is it so fun to sing nonsense words with a catchy tune in rounds? :) The song we worked on the most had the following lyrics:
I sat next to the Duchess at tea.
It was just as I thought it would be.
Her rumblings abdominal were simply phenomenal.
And everyone thought it was me!

Sometimes it's so fun to be silly :). It can be sung in 4 rounds, though we only got 3 going. Just before we left on Tuesday we also sang Dona Nobis Pacem (Give Us Peace), which is a favorite selection in my mom's family. It is sung in 3 rounds and is so pretty. Hannah and I weren't proficient in the three rounds, so we practiced it some more on the drive home. I've mentioned before that my family is (slowly) working on singing hymns in parts, and during our drive to-and-from Indiana we also sang a few hymns from our repertoire. Oh, and for those who missed it the first time, our personal ad still applies.

One more thing. I brought home another 3 boxes of books *sheepish grin*. All together that adds up to 17 boxes of books I've hauled home this summer from Indiana! (My original count of 13 was actually 14, as Mother Dear informed me.) I uncovered more books in the basement that I hadn't found before. Among other things, I found a hardbound set of Winston Churchill writings, a very old set of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, an antique copy of Silas Marner, a very old copy of Virgil - in Latin(!), and a multi-volume pictorial history of the Civil War (or The War Between the States, The War for Southern Independence, the War of Northern Aggression, or whatever preferential label you choose to give ;) ).

All in all a fun weekend, though it's also good to be home.

Random Ramblings on Reading and 'Riting

. . . or Miscellaneous Musings on Morphology or Grammar Griefs or Composition Cacophony. . . I'm feeling so alliterate right now ;).

On a homophonic note, check out this interesting article about a preposterous suggestion that would only serve to escalate our nation's illiteracy rates.

Another anecdote, related to the grammar and composition musings at hand, here is an illustration of why commas matter, excerpted from the Prayer of Confession in this week's bulletin:

Heal us when we give up hope, and allow fear and shallow self-interest to dominate our lives.

Hmm. Definitely not the effect intended. And some people think punctuation doesn't matter!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Visit from Emily

Last week my friend Emily visited from Alabama :). We've known each other since we were 10, so over half of our lives! Short summary of our visit together: Atlanta airport, North & South, Goodwill, Barnes and Noble, 12 thrift stores and antique shops, The Magic of Ordinary Days, Wives and Daughters, quilting and knitting, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta airport. In short, we had great fun :).

Emily and I share a condition called bibliophilia, a malady that is becoming increasingly more rare in our day and age, due to breakthrough treatments such as the "whole language" approach. While Emily was here, we helped support ourselves in our condition (misery does love company) by going to "therapy sessions" together. To the naked eye, these therapy sessions may have seemed like mere trips to used book stores (and one new bookstore), but it was so much deeper than that ;). And of course we made sure to include an ice cream break in the middle of our long day of store hopping. *A rousing rendition of Tradition strikes up, with full orchestral accompaniment* My favorite find of the week was an antique copy of Stepping Heavenward. I actually was quite proud of my restraint, and on our 12-store binge, I averaged only one purchase per store. Now I'll try to be good and only occasionally visit used book stores until next summer, when we hope to continue our esteemed tradition.

Here is a picture of Emily and me from her visit:

I'll write a bit on my Indiana trip later. I'm off to get some other things done now, though.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day!

We just got back from Indiana earlier this evening, and I jumped on the computer for a short bit just to catch up on a few blogs. I'm highly frustrated because Jetbrains Omea Reader, which was the blog tracker I used before, is not cooperating since our computer was fixed, though I've reinstalled it a few times. I signed up for Bloglines, but have yet to understand how to use it. It may be a few days before I'm properly back in the blogosphere, so bear with me. Meanwhile, I took a quick hop over to Sherrin's blog and took the quiz that she linked from John's blog entry. My results were just too hilarious not to post.

Your Summer Ride is a Beetle Convertible
Fun, funky, and a little bit euro.You love your summers to be full of style and sun!

Yep, that's me: stylish and always on the lookout for sun. *glances dubiously at pasty-white complexion and long skirt, then scurries off to bed*